IIIrd Tyme Out
IIIrd Tyme Out
One of the leading bluegrass groups of the 1990s and 2000s, IIIrd Tyme Out has, for several years in a row, swept the “Vocal Group of the Year” awards from various bluegrass music associations. Although the band is famous for the powerful lead vocals of guitarist-singer Russell Moore and the low-down bass vocals of bassist-singer Ray Deaton, IIIrd Tyme Out is an ensemble effort. Showcased in each album are the vocal talents of the band’s musicians, who have mastered the art of four-part harmony. The group’s plaintive, earnest songs successfully fuse bluegrass with a number of diverse musical styles, including gospel.
IIIrd Tyme Out formed in Georgia in 1991 when lead vocalist and guitarist Moore, bassist Deaton, and fiddler Mike Hargrove left the bluegrass ensemble Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver to create IIIrd Tyme Out—just in time for the summer festival season. Two musicians—mandolinist Alan Bibey and banjoist Terry Baucom—joined soon after, rounding out the band’s sound.
Forging its own musical identity, the quintet created a bluegrass style with accents of western swing, a cap-pella harmonies, gospel, and country music. The group’s repertoire came to include bluegrass and country favorites from Bill and Charlie Monroe, the Delmore Brothers, the Carter Family, Hank Williams, and Jim-mie Rodgers. Later, the quintet would successfully release an all-gospel album. “We try to do a variety of music in our shows and to not do anything anyone else has done before,” bassist Deaton told Doug Fulmer of the Plain Dealer. “We try to make [the music] fresh and exciting, with a real distinctive edge to it.”
IIIrd Tyme Out based its name on the fact that each of its three original members had joined his third professional full-time band. “We tried different spellings,” Moore told Rick Mitchell of the Houston Chronicle. “We just wanted something that would catch your eye, something that might make you take a second look.” In its first summer IIIrd Tyme Out gained a reputation for catchy tunes and exciting live performances. Before the end of the year, the quintet had a debut album—IIIrd Tyme Out— and a hit single—“Erase the Miles”—topping the bluegrass charts. The band’s first LP garnered an Album of the Year nomination from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Bluegrass fans soon noticed what set IIIrd Tyme Out apart from its peers: powerful lead vocals and enchanting four-part harmonies. “We build everything around the vocals; you’ve got to have that to sell the song,” Deaton told the Plain Dealer. “You put a real strong instrumental band out on stage and after two or three songs people are tired of it—they want to hear some singing.”
If the band’s first album turned heads, its second, 1992’s Puttin’New Roots Down, clinched its reputation. Shortly before the band cut its third album, 1993’s popular Grandpa’s Mandolin, mandolinist Wayne Benson replaced Alan Bibey, while banjoist Barry Aber-nathy replaced Terry Baucom. Before the group’s fourth album, 1996’s Letter to Home, banjoist Steve Dilling replaced Abernathy.
With Letter to Home, IIIrd Tyme Out included an a cappella version of the Platters’ R&B hit “Only You.” The song’s appearance on the album was a testimony to the band’s versatility and its ability to fuse musical styles and sounds. “Your hard-core bluegrass people might say, ‘That doesn’t sound like bluegrass to me, ‘” lead vocalist and guitarist Moore told the Houston Chronicle. “But I’ve always said that good music is good music, whether it’s ‘Cabin on the Hill’ or ‘Only You.’ If it’s done in the right way, people are going to listen.”
Also in 1996, IIIrd Tyme Out released the popular all-gospel album Living on the Other Side. Included was the Lester Flatt song “I’m Working on a Road to Gloryland,” which featured guest musician Earl Scruggs on the guitar. Bridging the gap between blue-grass and gospel, the song became a top-ten country hit, while the International Bluegrass Association named it Song of the Year. The following year, IIIrd Tyme Out was named Best Contemporary Gospel Group by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA).
Throughout the mid- to late 1990s, IIIrd Tyme Out enjoyed acclaim among bluegrass audiences; the band remained stymied, however, by bluegrass’s lack of exposure within mainstream American music. “Until
Members include Wayne Benson , mandolin, vocals; Ray Deaton , upright bass, vocals; Steve Dilling , banjo, vocals; Greg Luck , fiddle; Russell Moore , guitar, vocals. Former members include Barry Abernathy , banjo; Terry Baucom , banjo, vocals; Alan Bibey , mandolin, vocals; Mike Hartgrove , fiddle.
Group formed in Georgia, released debut album, IIIrd Tyme Out, 1991; first hit single, “Erase the Miles,” topped bluegrass charts for two months, 1991; title track of Grandpa’s Mandolin topped charts for three months, 1993; released first all-gospel album, Living on the Other Side, 1996; released Live at the Mac, 1998, John & Mary, 1999, and Back to the Mac, 2001.
Awards: International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), Vocal Group of the Year, 1994-2000; IBMA, Male Vocalist of the Year (Russell Moore), 1994, 1997; Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA), numerous Vocal Group of the Year awards; SPBGMA, Best Contemporary Gospel Group, 1997-98.
Addresses: Fan club —Jimmy & Ella Hicks, 1510 Wood-creek Dr., Cumming, GA 30041. Website— IIIrd Tyme Out Official Website: http://www.iiirdtymeout.com.
some major label picks up a bluegrass act and puts some money behind them, we’re fighting a losing battle to get our music heard,” Deaton told the Plain Dealer in 1998. Meanwhile, the quintet continued its work of reaching out to audiences and broadening its base of listeners.
In 1998 IIIrd Tyme Out released Live at the Mac, a tribute to the first generation of bluegrass masters, recorded live at the Mountain Arts Center (a.k.a. the Mac) in Prestonburg, Kentucky. But it was 1999’s John & Mary that caught the attention of IIIrd Tyme Out fans. The cultural arts magazine Rambles called the album “IIIrd Tyme Out’s finest non-gospel release since their 1993 breakthrough, Grandpa’s Mandolin.” Featured on John & Mary is guest artist Rob Ickes (resophonic guitar), from the bluegrass-blues band Blues Highway. With the addition of a blues sound to its repertoire, IIIrd Tyme Out once again proved its ability to incorporate new styles and to bridge the gap between genres.
The quintet’s 2001 release, Back to the Mac, would be its last recording with fiddler Mike Hartgrove. The only cofounder to leave in ten years, Hartgrove was replaced the following year by fiddler Greg Luck. In early 2002, IIIrd Tyme Out announced that its ninth album, another gospel recording, would be released later that year. The band’s official website stated that the gospel album was a “recording project” of newcomer Luck, who owns and operates the recording studio Riverside Audio. Meanwhile, IIIrd Tyme Out continues to pursue its goal: to win audiences over to bluegrass music and to support its acceptance in the mainstream American music scene.
IIIrd Tyme Out, Rebel, 1991.
Puttin’New Roots Down, Rebel, 1992.
Grandpa’s Mandolin, Rebel, 1993.
Letter to Home, Rounder, 1996.
Living on the Other Side, Rounder, 1997.
Live at the Mac, Rounder, 1998.
John & Mary, Rounder, 1999.
Back to the Mac, Rounder, 2001.
Houston Chronicle, February 1, 1996, p. 3.
Plain Dealer, February 3, 1995, p. 2E; January 23, 1998, p. 14.
“IIIrd Tyme Out,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 2, 2002).
“IIIrd Tyme Out: John & Mary” Rambles, http://www.rambles.net/iiirdtimeout_john.html (September 23, 2002).
IIIrd Tyme Out Official Website, http://www.iiirdtymeout.com (September 2, 2002).
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