Justin Hiltner and Jon Weisberger to Release Watch It Burn on August 17, 2018
Collaborating with all-star musicians Molly Tuttle, Casey Campbell, Tristan Scroggins, Brandon Godman, Kimber Ludiker, Corrina Logston, Amanda Fields, and Tim O’Brien.
American Songwriter Magazine premieres first single “Watch It Burn” ft. Molly Tuttle
June 15, 2018
Justin Hiltner and Jon Weisberger, two longtime friends and bluegrass songwriters, musicians, and community leaders, are pleased to announce the release of Watch It Burn, available everywhere on Aug. 17 on Robust Records. The album is a reflection of who Justin and Jon are as writers and individuals -- a collection of songs rooted solidly in the traditional precepts of the Bluegrass genre, while simultaneously playing on its innovative fringes. Watch It Burn blends personal themes with those of classic country and bluegrass in an affectionate, well-crafted, yet emotionally resonant way. Yesterday, American Songwriter Magazine exclusively premiered the title track, "Watch It Burn," Listen here .
Watch It Burn is a refreshing set of songs given the full-blown bluegrass band treatment by a clutch of outstanding young musicians: there’s a two-stepper that echoes countless country classics in its denial of heartbreak; an old-time flavored barn burner; a meditation on wistful-yet-defiant skepticism; a ‘grassy reflection onloneliness; a brother-style duet that sounds like it came straight from the 1950s, and more. It’s rare to find a collection so committed both to a contemporary insistenceon emotional truth and to the masterful use of vintage lyrical, musical, and thematic approaches.
Calling on their best of friends and the tight-knit bluegrass circle that originally brought them together, Hiltner and Weisberger assembled a roster of pickers to rival any of the best roots albums being released today: Molly Tuttle, current reigning International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Guitar Player of the Year brings her signature ruthless virtuosity to the project. IBMA Momentum Award winners Casey Campbell and Tristan Scroggins split mandolin duty, providing a fascinating case study in divergent traditional approaches to the instrument. There’s also compatriot Brandon Godman, who conjured the record’s sole instrumental, “General Kuster,” sawing on the fiddle through nearly half of the album.
Grand Master Champion fiddler Kimber Ludiker of the GRAMMY-nominated roots-grass ensemble Della Mae also plays twin fiddle, a much too rare role on modern bluegrass records. Straight-ahead powerhouses Corrina Logston(fiddle) and Amanda Fields (guitar) reinforce the album’s constant homages to the genre’s heritage. And finally, a modern legend of bluegrass music, Tim O’Brien, lends a soulful, vibrant lead vocal to “If I Were a Praying Man,” a slightly angsty song of uncertainty and introspection.
Not many albums can be said to have an exact date of origin, but Watch It Burndoes -- and it’s a memorable: August 21, 2017. That was the date of a total eclipse of the sun, the centerline of which passed barely a mile north of Weisberger’s Cottontown, TN, home — a fact to which he’d been alerted months earlier by Hiltner — and the day when, in conversation with other viewing party guests, it dawned onthe two that they’d written nearly an album’s worth of songs. It was an auspicious start.
Without deadlines or publishing quotas, the pair routinely got together to write songs over the years for a few very simple reasons: They loved bluegrass, they loved creating, and they loved gabbing while indulging in imported cheeses.
The resulting record, Watch It Burn, reflects on those preoccupations (except, perhaps for the imported cheeses), with a distinctive combination of material and musicians, it’s perhaps no surprise that Watch It Burn seems destined to become an emblem for a new generation of traditional-leaning bluegrass -- rooted in a deep knowledge of and love for the music’s past, yet organically reflective of the diversity that’s essential to bringing it into the future. While that might not have been exactly what Justin Hiltner and Jon Weisberger had in mind when they first sat down to write -- or even what they contemplated on that hot August day when the project was born and the sun disappeared -- it’s what they’ve achieved, and that’s something special indeed.
About Justin Hiltner
Justin Hiltner is an openly gay songwriter and banjoist based in Nashville, TN. His high-energy, Scruggs-style picking is unique in its combination of traditional aesthetic and progressive, improvisational, outside-the-box thinking. Over the course of his seven years in Music City he’s toured, performed, and collaborated with bluegrass greats such as Roland White, Laurie Lewis, Jim Lauderdale, Ronnie McCoury, Molly Tuttle, and Missy Raines. In 2016 he was nominated for IBMA’s Instrumentalist Momentum Award. An activist for inclusion and visibility, NPR Music called him “a leader in the burgeoning movement to welcome and highlight queer voices in bluegrass.” He produced the first ever showcase of diversity in bluegrass, now an annual event at IBMA’s business conference and he authors the eponymous “Shout & Shine” interview series, which focuses on underrepresented and marginalized identities in roots music, for The Bluegrass Situation.
About Jon Wesiberger
Jon Weisberger was the first recipient of the IBMA’s Songwriter of the Year award in 2012. He’s spent the past decade and a half as a member of Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, with whom he’s scored nearly a dozen #1 hits as writer or performer; during that same period, he’s had close to 200 of his songs recorded by a broad array of bluegrass and related artists, from jamgrass favorites like the Travelin’ McCourys and the Infamous Stringdusters to traditional stalwarts such as Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers and Junior Sisk, and released two well-received solo albums. A member of the IBMA’s Board of Directors for 11 years, he has served for the same amount of time as producer and co-host of the popular Hand-Picked with Del McCoury show on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction.
About Robust Records
Robust Records was founded in 2008 with the mission of guiding emerging artists through the many important steps involved in making quality music, spreading that music, and acquiring fans – from production and recording, to disc manufacturing and online distribution, to booking and publicity, and to business management and funding. Founder, Mitch Collman is a practicing cardiologist with a big heart. Medicine is his vocation, but music is his passion.
Now, just five years later, Robust’s catalogue ranges from the Durham hip-hop fusion of The Beast, to folksinger Reed Mahoney (produced in conjunction with Jim Avett), to the Winston-Salem country rock of songwriter Caleb Caudle, to pop rock connoisseurs The Letter Jackets (an offshoot from bluegrass Chatham County Line), to the Carolina newgrass of Chapel Hill up-and-comers Mipso. If the Robust Records family seems uncommonly diverse, Mitch likes it that way. “I’m interested in music that crosses categories,” he says. “And what matters is music that reaches and touches people.”
Watch It Burn (2018)
Watch It Burn featuring Molly Tuttle
If I Don’t Marry Molly I’ll Die
This Isn’t How I Wanted to Come Home
What I Miss the Most
If I Were a Praying Man featuring Tim O'Brien
Half of the Rest of My Life
I’m Not in Love with You
Doing What You Do
RBST015 • $12