Alex DePue guests “The Queen of Bluegrass” RHONDA VINCENT & DePue’s Heartfelt Remake of Merle Haggard’s Hit Song, “Workin’ Man Blues”
Just after the Hag’s demise in 2016, American Fiddler Alex DePue got to work on the arrangement, and coaxed Miss Vincent to cross far over the line from what she is famous worldwide… traditional Bluegrass. This new and edgy, raspy and rockier, even Janis-Joplin-esque representation of Rhonda’s voice which lives within (must be Vincent’s alter-ego?), is entirely convincing.
Rhonda Vincent digs deep into this performance with a fervor, as per DePue’s pre-planned and constructed production requests (we saw the email). As a matter of fact, the Country staple has never been belted forth with such angst, passion, and woe until now, the performance DePue deems, “The Greatest Ever”.
And though DePue is known for calling almost everything he does, “The Greatest Ever”, we have to stop and wonder… is he right?
Everything we’ve ever heard from this very American fiddler has lived up to every description for which he (and countless others) have prescribed. His contemporary pop arrangements for solo violin, seen freely all over Google, are considered “unplayable” by other violinists/fiddlers, and yet DePue still barely exists within the shadows, way outside on the outer rim of whatever we’re calling, “the music industry” in 2020.
Almost zero visibility.
And though the sheet music for his arrangements might indeed exist, and even WITH those well-written, accurate blueprints, violinists far and wide continue to stumble and stammer with DePue’s material, wondering, “what am I doing wrong?”, and “why can’t I make this sound like Alex DePue, though?”
It will not ever equate for any other violinist anything like “success” at matching DePue’s solo violin sound… not even almost. Until we can upload the consciousness of another mortal being into the body of another, it will continue to be only Alex DePue: Yes, Alex DePue, the only violinist alive to have literally cornered the market on this original sound. Everyone knows it, but seemingly cares not to acknowledge.
The Kansas-City Tribune, however, nailed it right on the head:
“ALEX DEPUE IS ONE OF THE LEADING IMPROV VIOLINISTS OF HIS GENERATION, WITH LEGENDARY PROWESS IN BLUEGRASS, ROCK, CLASSICAL, AND JAZZ/BLUES…” – Kansas-City Tribune
Add to that sound for any player who tries, a ballsy, intense, pressed-out yet ironed, and just-enough-polished tone and technique to remind you the vast education DePue absorbed over the course of four decades of formal study, and at the same time, add the rather humbling realizations that the guy took some hard hits in life along the way (started playing professionally in bars at age 12, and his mom passed away while he watched in horror, a fatal car accident when he was only 14 years old) and the sensitivity those hardships in life just might bring to any musician’s sound… well, THEN maybe you’ve really got something, there.
But we’ll still tell you, DePue’s playing can often reinvent itself, his “other life” right in front of your very ears, i.e., audible representations of those hard-knocks, real-life experiences The Fiddler endured while on the streets of Philadelphia, PA, Austin, TX and Atlantic City, NJ, frequenting several homeless shelters and rehab clinics for in-patient care. DePue was a homeless fiddling indigent for many years.
What fans don’t know. Tsk. We think it appropriate material, though, for this, Alex DePue’s internet home. What we’re amazed by is that anyone could live through it all, and still be able to tell about these stories today, from the stage. We’ve heard a few, but some are so heart-breaking that we’ll have to reserve for other articles. Just know that if ever there were an instrument through which one can express his/herself best, it is the violin. There are spirits which lie within the sound of the individual using this tool, that simply cannot become accessed any other way. To hear DePue play the violin, is to better understand his life story.
Have a listen to his Youtube video, yet another unplayable arrangement for solo violin, this time an 80’s “cover” originally recorded by the band Journey, and hear The Fiddler – Alex DePue, demonstrate exactly why his latest album is entitled, “Modern Paganini“. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmBYQ_J0hC4
Separate Ways appears on the same album as the Haggard tribute “Workin’ Man Blues” featuring Rhonda Vincent, and can be found all over the internet. To speak your appreciation directly to the Artist, though, so that he/she hears your enthusiasm? It’s always best to work directly with your favorites whenever possible. In this case, it’s easy. Please pay a quick visit to Alex DePue through his new website, and find everything he and his entire musical family have to offer. (Along with three other world-class violinists, The DePue Brothers Band have been touring the world since 1987.)
Back to the video!
This video of “Workin’ Man Blues”, a true HIT remake, found on Alex DePue’s latest full-album release, “Modern Paganini“, is on par with anything and everything else we can find via mainstream media. A six-camera shoot from deep within the bowels of Nashville, Tennessee, this smoky bar-room (American Legion Post), live-band performance belongs on a major network like Country Music Television. But alas, for as long as a lone fiddler’s attempts at creating anything like “hype” using nothing but his own social media accounts, battle corporate machines in charge of whatever snot IS passed forth through their corporate radio/tv airwaves? Well, you get the picture.
“Why is Alex DePue not featured on America’s Got Talent?”, is a question often asked by those in tune with the musical world just enough to know The Fiddler’s name, and that does include the producers for AGT. They reached out to HIM back in 2008, and then never followed up on the when and where of it all.
Whenever DePue does find fans who have seen him in action, their collective reaction all have one thing in common. It is that they’ve never seen or heard anything like it in their entire lives. To experience, “The Fiddler” live, be it solo, or with his Mexican guitar counterpart, Señor Miguel De Hoyos (the duo performed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio), or supporting any Artist/Singer, the mental and emotional imprint DePue brands into the audience member’s heart, is one that lasts an entire lifetime.
Another aspect gained from experiencing Alex DePue live in performance, is the realization that the violin can become all kinds of cool. DePue seems to ooze cool through the f-holes of his violin, and it subsequently pours out over everyone there to witness it. Sometimes he’s playing melodic and beautiful passages, and sometimes he’s literally beating the thing to death, albeit in rhythm, with his bow.
For the remake, “Workin’ Man Blues” by Merle Haggard, featuring singer Rhonda Vincent, and playing electric guitar on the track, and also seen in the same video, is yet another musical (this time guitar) legend.
Mr. John Carroll plays expertly along with DePue’s fiddle (the two worked together for years backing up former Country music sensation, Chris Cagle), and the band’s groove from the rhythm section sounds like The Little Blue Engine That COULD.
A big, phat groove accompanies the genius prowess set forth by those timbres living above the bass frequencies, and what we’re left with as listeners? Answer: A full sonic spread of nothing less than “world-class”, from beginning to end. It’s almost four full minutes of ass-kickin’, mind blowing Country Music.
(Alex DePue plays exclusively with Glasser Bows, and the video, “Workin’ Man Blues” features DePue playing the first prototype of Glasser’s new line of electric violins, the same electric fiddle DePue played at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Alex DePue uses Connolly and Company’s “Thomastik-Dominant” violin strings)